DALLAS (NEXSTAR) — A Texas teen with a debilitating illness is sending is sending some “faith” to her unlikely new penpal, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, following his career-altering injury earlier this month.
Rebecca Taylor, 17, recently received an autographed football from Prescott inscribed with the word “faith.” While most people might be floored to receive a personalized ball from the leader of America’s team, Rebecca had no idea who he was. Having spent the last 7 years in the hospital, football hasn’t been on top of her priority list.
“Rebecca did not care he was a superstar, all she knew was a man who had been kind enough to send her a football gift when she was in the hospital,” Christyn, Rebecca’s mom, said.
Rebecca appreciated the gesture and Prescott’s support of her struggle. Little did she know she’d have an opportunity to return the favor when the Cowboys quarterback faced a setback of his own.
Following his Oct. 11 leg injury, someone suggested Rebecca send Prescott an autographed football of her own. As someone who knows the struggle of trying to remain optimistic amid extended hospital stays, she thought perhaps she could provide inspiration.
So Rebecca signed a football for Prescott — also inscribing the word “faith” — in what you could call the start of an unlikely pen-pal relationship. Along with the ball was a 4-page letter her mom says “expressed her sadness and understanding in missing portions of life due to illness or injury.”
Missing out is something Rebecca knows all too well.
She suffers from an unknown form of chronic pancreatitis caused by an undiagnosed immunological condition. Essentially, her illness is a mystery. She is often in and out of hospitals, trying to keep smiling while in constant pain.
For nearly a decade, her family’s search for answers has taken them to multiple states and too many doctors to count. Over the years, she’s had dozens of pancreatic surgeries and anesthetic procedures. To date, there’s no cure and no end in sight.
She was recently transferred from a medical facility in her home of San Antonio to a Dallas-area hospital for treatment. When Rebecca and her mom arrived at their room, they were surprised to find a care package from the Dallas Cowboys.
On top of blankets, pajamas and a letter from owner Jerry Jones extending his prayers to Rebecca, there were Dak Prescott jerseys and the signed football.
It was the word “faith” that really stood out for the Taylors.
On top of Rebecca’s diagnosis in 2010, the Taylor family lost a baby in what Rebecca’s mom described as “shaking the foundation of my faith to the core.”
And Rebecca’s constant hospitalizations, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, have largely separated the family. Christyn stays with Rebecca in the hospital while Rebecca’s dad and brothers are at home hundreds of miles away.
Rebecca’s mom is a Bible study teacher. To say this struggle has tested Christyn’s faith would be an understatement.
“If I thought there was no God and all of this was happening because of bad luck, I would never have survived the first year of our decade long medical journey,” Christyn said. “To firmly believe God can use suffering for His greater purpose provides me hope to know what we are going through is not in vain.”
She shares her family’s faith journey through a blog. Through her writings, she’s able to update family and friends on Rebecca, reveal personal challenges and talk about leaning on her faith during tough times. Unable to teach Bible study while caring for her sick daughter, the blog gives her an opportunity to spread a Christian message of hope.
“Over time, when I shared writings, the response was incredible – most especially for others struggling with their own difficult path,” she said. “Doctors, teachers, nurses and complete strangers have come to know God through a child’s illness.”
Through his own struggles, Dak Prescott has also leaned on his faith. One of the first things he did after his injury was to say he’s “excited for God’s purpose and God’s plan.”
“I know it’s bigger than anything that I see, or could have imagined. But I’m trusting Him,” Prescott said in an Instagram video. “My faith is doubled down more than ever, and I’m thankful that He’s my Savior and He guides me in life, so I know through Him, all of this will be possible and all this will be a great comeback and a great story.”
After the loss of his mother to cancer, Prescott founded the Faith Fight Finish Foundation to assist families battling cancer.
Rebecca also has turned her pain into something positive. In 2018, she launched Rebecca’s Wish – the world’s first nonprofit dedicated to children with pancreatitis. The group has raised some $2 million to help numerous pediatric patients who wouldn’t have support or financial help otherwise.
“When Rebecca focuses on others, she knows God is using her situation for good,” Christyn said.
Rebecca dreams of attending Harvard and was recently named a National Merit semifinalist. As part of the process, she submitted an essay for a National Merit Scholarship in which she addressed her illness and her new purpose moving forward.
I might spend the rest of my life chasing after a cure that does not exist. I might never get to see the view at the top. But I have come to realize my beauty is not in the finish line. My beauty is in the journey of the smiles from the patients finding someone who understands. My beauty is in the parents who find relief for their children. My beauty is in the hope that one day, all children suffering from pancreatitis will have a cure. I could spend my life fighting for myself or, I could use every unknown remaining second I have walking beside another child, helping them climb mountains of their own.
Both Rebecca and Prescott — the unlikely hospital pen-pals — have taken personal challenges and struggles and turned them into something positive for others, hoping to inspire people along the way.
Two very different people. One strong faith.